We don't want to catch clients unaware

Judging by client accounts, their first encounter with the Special Asset Management department tends to come as somewhat of a shock to business clients. Since feedback provided by clients shows that this is a fairly common experience, Rabobank has decided to change its approach.

The bank invited a group of Dutch business clients to attend a feedback meeting to discuss their experiences with Special Asset Management, which provides support to clients in financial distress. Several clients were quite vocal in their criticism, citing communication – or the lack thereof – and the occasional lack of empathy displayed by employees as some of the key weaknesses.

Business card

'I really got a bit of a shock the first time I received a letter signed by Special Asset Management – it really came out of left field,' one client relates. In another client’s account, 'My account manager told me a consultant would be joining us for our meeting, and it turned out to be someone from Special Asset Management. It really only hit home when I saw his business card.' Another client said, 'One day we received an unexpected visit from a group of men in sharp suits…'

Earlier stage

'Some clients really do feel blindsided by the experience, and that is obviously painful and never our intention at all,' says Special Asset Management Team Leader Bert Winnemuller. 'We usually announce our visits to clients in advance, but apparently we don’t always clearly explain to them what they can expect. We have found that we can avoid unpleasant surprises by taking a more proactive approach. The whole purpose of the process is to help clients get back on their feet, and in the majority of cases our efforts do turn out to be successful.'

Face-off

Several clients who attended the meeting talked of the unsettling experience of suddenly finding themselves 'face to face' rather than 'side by side' with the bank, as they had previously been accustomed. 'We have found that business clients tend to feel that they don’t receive enough support from the bank when the crunch comes. We are absolutely committed to finding a solution together, but clients, unfortunately, don't always experience it that way.'

Steps to take

Clients have praised Special Asset Management for the way it has conducted the meetings, the in-depth questions they ask and the range of industry knowledge its employees have at their disposal. Winnemuller: 'Of course, we find the positive feedback very encouraging, but at this point we want to concentrate mainly on avenues for improvement. We still have some way to go in terms of improving transparency and communication. We want to make sure clients are absolutely clear on what this relationship involves and to avoid any misunderstanding about what clients and the bank can expect from each other in these special asset management processes. You need to be absolutely clear if you want the outcome to be successful.'

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